A New Richmond-area teenager who carried an AR-15 rifle in his car raised concerns among coworkers after saying he was going "to shoot kids," according to charges filed this week in St. Croix County Circuit Court
St. Croix County Sheriff Scott Knudson said investigators found an unloaded AR-15 rifle Friday, March 30, in Nicholas H. Cherrier's car and a prosecutor said the 18-year-old had about 3,500 rounds of ammunition in the bedroom of his town of Somerset home.
Prosecutors charged Cherrier on Monday, April 2, with one count of terroristic threats, a felony that, if convicted, carries a maximum penalty of three and-a-half years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He's also charged with disorderly conduct.
St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Edward Vlack set a $10,000 cash bond in the case during Cherrier's initial court appearance.
Knudson said the investigation remained active Monday and that detectives will "follow the facts."
"When people make comments, especially in today's climate, about shooting kids, it's definitely going to get our attention," Knudson said. "We are going to put a lot of resources into ensuring the public's safety."
Law enforcement officials and educators have been on high alert in recent weeks after a school shooting left 17 people dead in Parkland, Florida. Students in Hudson, River Falls and Ellsworth have been questioned by authorities after allegedly making school-shooting remarks.
Bond conditions prohibit Cherrier, a 2017 New Richmond High School graduate, from contacting his employer, Nor-Lake, or any of its employees. He is also barred from entering school grounds and from possessing firearms, weapons or explosives.
According to a criminal complaint:
St. Croix County sheriff's deputies were called Friday, March 30, to Nor-Lake, a refrigeration manufacturing business in the town of Hudson, where a company official wanted to report concerns about comments Cherrier made at work.
The official said he'd learned from employees that Cherrier had made threats of violence, kept an assault rifle in the trunk of his car and discussed "purchasing armor piercing ammo, and a bullet proof vest, to shoot a bunch of kids," the complaint states.
He had also made comments about shooting at his workplace if he were to be fired; he was "on thin ice" at work, the official told the deputy, noting that Cherrier had been arriving late to work.
Deputies went to Cherrier's 80th Street home and stopped a pickup that contained three people including Cherrier.
A deputy told Cherrier he was being investigated for comments he reportedly made at work. Cherrier admitted to saying he wanted to shoot kids, but that he was joking. He also admitted to carrying an AR-15 in his car's trunk.
Deputies spoke with Cherrier's father, who dismissed allegations that his son had made threats. He told officers that Cherrier was an Eagle Scout and a "quiet and gentle person" who worked two full-time jobs while saving money to buy land.
Unconvinced by officers' statements that Cherrier had granted permission to have his room and car searched, the father denied a search of his property without a warrant. He later allowed a search after deputies allowed him to speak with Cherrier on the phone.
Deputies found several "Don't Tread on Me" flags on the walls of Cherrier's room, along with a loaded shotgun between his bed and a gun safe.
In addition to "many knives and cutting tools" discovered in the room, deputies also found confiscated items including:
-- Five loaded 30-round AR-15 magazines
-- A bucket containing 1,400 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition
-- More than 200 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition
-- A .22-caliber rifle with a scope
An investigator learned learned Cherrier told a coworker he wanted to buy a Glock handgun and shotgun ammunition at Walmart, but couldn't because of his age. The coworker said Cherrier told him on March 28 he had spent $168 on .22-caliber ammunition, along with 5.56mm rounds and three magazines for his AR-15.
Cherrier remarked that the AR-15 ammunition was "to shoot kids," which the coworker said was an "alarming" response, according to the complaint. The coworker said Cherrier "made the remark with a straight face and did not state that it was a joke," the charging document states.
Wisconsin court records show Cherrier has no prior criminal history.
He returned to court on Tuesday for a bail hearing.